A saucy affair
RESTAURANTS • First Person
Red-sauce Italian is generally best left to storied institutions — or your nonna.
Donna, the namesake matriarch of Echo Park’s new spaghetti spot, isn’t actually a nonna. She isn’t even a real person. She’s a fictional construct of owners Michael Francesconi and Matthew Glaser, who made her up to evoke the idea of a nonna cooking for you somewhere in New Jersey.
All this to say I was skeptical on arrival at Donna’s on Sunset Boulevard last week. Two hours later, I was converted.
Maybe I was under the spell of the decor: floral-stamped wallpaper, checkered tiled floors, forest green banquettes. More likely I was taken by chef Sathia Sun (Felix, Union) and his tightly edited interpretation of an old-school red-sauce menu. The martinis, Negronis, and other spiffed-up classic cocktails didn’t hurt either. (The owners are also partners in the bars next door, Lowboy and Bar Flores, plus Little Tokyko’s Wolf & Crane).
The dish on every table: fusilli alla vodka, dolloped with whipped ricotta and chili oil. Instagram candy, but also, delicious. Sun’s Caesar swaps in tonnato — it works. And the saucy shrimp scampi gets an upgrade via blue prawns. My favorite? A special of beef tartare, topped with a fall salad of persimmons, radicchio, and crispy capers.
It’s easy to understand why Donna’s is already one of the toughest tables in town, especially after a deal-sealing dessert duo: a warm almond-carrot torte with a pat of orange-scented mascarpone, served alongside a shot of Braulio Amaro Alpino shaken with an orange peel. Waiter, run it back. –Emily Wilson